Lawsuit Riverview Tampa Dunedin

Tampa Media Executive Sues Florida Departement Of HSMV Over DUI Driver License Suspension

TAMPA, FL. – The Vice President of Sales for WFLA News Channel 8/Nexstar Broadcasting, filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on September 22.

A citation issued against Steven Lee Blanchard, 46, at 1:33 a.m. on July 10 for DUI led to a six-month suspension of his driver’s license, which he seeks to invalidate.

According to police, Blanchard’s alcohol level was measured twice by CBT (Central Breath Testing) at .200 and .210. The legal limit is 0.08.

Blanchard was stopped at Howard Avenue and West LaSalle Street by a City of Tampa police officer who described allegations of Blanchard’s conduct in a 23-page General Offense Report:

“I advised Blanchard his vehicle was straddling the lane markers for several blocks. He replied he intentionally drove that way to prevent another vehicle from getting too close to his. I observed Blanchard to have red, glassy eyes, slurred speech, and the distinct odor of alcohol beverage on his breath. He stated he had one drink tonight.”

Blanchard was also reported as cooperative, but he failed the field sobriety tests, leading to his arrest for DUI. The police officer then described dialogue that allegedly occurred:

“Blanchard asked me to call Sheriff Chronister to have him come to the scene while he performed the SFSTs. I told him no. He kept asking me so (another officer) told him we work for the Tampa Police Department. He then asked me to call Chief Dugan to have him respond. I told him I wouldn’t do that either and he made repeated requests for me to do so before he completed the SFSTs. While transporting Blanchard to CBT he inferred that Chief Dugan would not be pleased with my decision to arrest him. When we got to CBT he stated he was on the board of directors with Chief Dugan at DACCO and he is the vice president of sales at news channel 8. Blanchard’s actions and statements indicated that he expected preferential treatment tonight. He felt that he should not have been arrested or taken to jail because of his position in the community.”

Blanchard attempted to invalidate his driver’s license suspension before filing suit, declaring there was no “probable cause” for a traffic stop. But Hearing Officer James Garbett of the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department denied rescinding the suspension on the grounds that his driving was “atypical.”

Thereafter, Blanchard hired Tampa attorney E. Michael Isaak to handle his case. In Blanchard’s legal complaint, Isaak argues the police officer who stopped Blanchard did not prove “probable cause” to do so, declaring there is no competent, substantial evidence that exists to establish Blanchard’s traffic stop as lawful.

He rejects Garbett’s decision, complaining that the real issue was that adequate police narratives that should have described lawful reasons for Blanchard’s traffic stop were deficient and not acceptable according to previous case law, such as Dobrin v. Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in 2004 in Florida.

Isaak’s main bone of contention is that the police officer’s General Offense Report described Blanchard as “straddling” lanes. According to Isaak, “straddling” does not mean the same as “weaving” or traveling beyond the lanes, which would justify a traffic stop for “failing to maintain a lane.”

He also complains the police officer did not state he suspected “illness, tiredness or impairment,” or witnessed a “traffic infraction,” either which would be a required reference in a report to properly justify a traffic stop.

Unlike attorney Isaak, however, Sergeant Steve Gaskins, Public Affairs Officer for the Florida Highway Patrol for Tampa Bay said, “Straddling still fails to maintain a single lane.” Gaskins did not comment on Blanchard’s case.

The Free Press contacted attorney Isaak’s office but there was no response to an inquiry.

No response was received from the director of public relations at Core Behavioral Health (formerly DACCO) regarding if Blanchard still served on the non-profit drug addiction health care agency’s board of directors.

A virtual criminal traffic court disposition hearing is scheduled in Hillsborough County courts for November 4.

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